Monday, March 4, 2013

Mon 4 Mar - Austin, TX

Today, we are exploring the University district and beyond. We took the local bus 10 to outside the stadium, where they have this lovely fountain. The tall building in the background is the main building where administration and the president of the University reside.

We wandered past the stadium and like all major state universities they take their football seriously here. The stadium is huge. The team is called the Texas Longhorns.

You can get in under the stadium but nothing it does not lead us close enough to see anything particularly interesting, just a few statues of football coaches and we preferred this one of the pug dog.

As you wander the main boulevard you see many nice buildings, some sculptures and plenty of grass and trees. The university went through a major building boom from 1925 to 1937 after oil was discovered on university owned land outside the city. That oil funded a lot!

The statue you can see in the distance below is of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

This determined lady (to the left, not the one on the right who you know already) is a sculpture of Barbara Jordan. She was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate and the first southern black female elected to the United States House of Representatives. The lady to the right is also a tough nut.

This is Littlefield house after George Littlefield who contributed enormously to the university in its early days and was donated to the university after his wife's death. It looks lovely from the outside but unfortunately it was not open for us to check out inside (ground floor for functions, upper floor for admin). We peeked in through the windows where we could.

View of the main building entrance and carillon tower.

The pool you see here is called the Terrapin pond.

We thought the terrapins were statues but then they moved and huddled together...very cute enjoying the sunshine.

Its 10.30am and Hans coffee clock is ticking so we headed into the IT faculty building thinking it was the library. This sign caught our eye... Coffee made by a robot?

Hans had to give it a go. It's all automated and you touch screen options to order an then you swipe your credit card. It knows your first name and puts it on a screen with a countdown clock until your coffee is ready. Hans claims he's had worse coffee from non-robots. A young lady explained this is a prototype machine being tested here. Not bad!

Although, you could argue that the "robot" is just a glorified vending machine...

Back to wandering and we headed in the West University area. A couple of nice murals, this one below of Texas, but otherwise the streetscape is not really that interesting.

Onto East Austin. We caught an approaching bus to downtown then walked from downtown. East Austin is supposed to be a new upcoming funky area but we were never clear of exactly where.

We walked quite a bit and saw a few bars, a couple of food trucks and this "food court" was quite interesting but nothing we felt worthy of a visit.

There are still a lot of homeless people in East Austin as evidenced by this empty lot with spare blankets shoved into trees. We detoured past a huge group of them in town and also saw quite a lot of homeless people outside a church near the Uni. It is sad to see and may feel uncomfortable for people from out of town.
East Austin still has some developing to do, although you could see it being gentrified. However, we would not come here at night. After about 90 minutes or so of wandering and a bite at a Subway franchise, we had enough and caught the metro home.
Hans has been keen to try "his metro" and found it is all very flash and looking very new, but with a frequency (every 45 to 60 minutes) and reach (only 9 stations in total) public rail here is leaving a lot to be desired. Our local stop is only two stops, but with lost distances between the stops, away at Highland.

Local conspiracy shot below...

Hmmm Di has been a bit grouchy about the neighbourhood where we are staying in North Austin. It does make us laugh sometimes with conspiracy theory signs like the one below and some interesting characters...but is a bit of a worry when the local bums start recognizing us and wave hello! Next time we will pay more for a better location.

Time for some clothes washing and a rest before dinner at our local seafood joint, named Quality Seafood. Looked good, good prices, rated highly in Tripadvisor and has a Dixieland band playing on Monday nights...

The interior... Very relaxed and informal...
There is a separate bar for your alcoholic needs...
Here we are, waiting for our orders to arrive... And the band plays in the background...
Below is the Dixieland band. The guy to the far right insisted in yapping in some fake French between the songs. That didn't work at all, but as a band they were doing just fine and people were dancing at times. And this is a Monday evening...
Food was really nice and cheap. Seafood platter and blackened fish with a variety of sides. All good.
After a most satisfactory meal, we walk back to America's (sometimes) Best Value Inn (Santa Fe, not Austin) where we now have a bunch of smoking and chatting and partying(?) male Mexicans staying next door. This is clearly a motel for a diverse range of travelers.
And yes, we booked 10 nights in London Town, UK, from 29th July when we arrive from Montreal, Canada to checking out 8 Aug when we go to Edinburgh and the Fringe Festival. Well, it is peak season in London then and we got a good deal (we think) on Holland Rd, Kensington and Chelsea in the West End...

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